Friday, 20 February 2015

Island Paradise (Night's Black Agents, Esoterrorists, Fear Itself)

There's a great New York Times article over here on the buying habits of the very, very rich, which I recommend you look at. It caught my eye at first because Bermuda's number one of the list of places to buy property, and it's always nice to see your home make the number one spot on any list. [he says, as he contemplates a mortgage that will never be affordable if he lives to be a thousand.]

For those of you who don't fancy skimming it, the article talks about how great it can be to buy an island of your very own. Imagine living on, say, Buck Island in the BVI, with its protected bay, house that can accommodate twenty, and its helicopter pad, for those days when you can't be bothered to sail in. The BVI's only a few hours out from the East Coast - you need to fly somewhere else first, then fly from there to the Virgin Islands - so theoretically you could go out in the morning, have lunch at your island paradise, and be back in New York before night falls. All of which is probably much easier to do if you have your own private jet, and if you can afford Buck Island's $25 million asking price, a private jet shouldn't be a problem for you.

As a location for a scenario, or even just a scene in a larger piece, a private island is perfect. It's far enough away from the mainland that the protagonists can't expect backup. It may be so far away that ordinary cellphone communication is impossible. In some parts of the world, like Greece, a private island can have been inhabited for centuries, if not millennia; who knows what kind of terrifying rituals took place at that haunted monastery, or castle? Or, in a modern twist, who knows why that luxury hotel was abandoned twenty years ago? The only way to find out is to go there and investigate ...

Looking at this from an RPG perspective, why would, say, the vampire Conspyracy or the Esoterrorists want an island?

Well, for one thing an island is very private. You can do almost anything out there, and nobody's ever going to know. Esoteric rituals, sacrifices, clandestine meetings of the higher-ups in the conspyramid, strange scientific experiments; it's perfect for all your security needs. Plus whichever governmental authority controls the comings and goings - in BVI, for instance, the ultimate authority is the Crown, represented by the island's Governor, and there's also an elected government led by a Premier - is probably going to bend over backwards to keep you happy. You're fabulously wealthy, after all; the local economy may significantly benefit from your continued patronage. This means that any nosy foreigners asking questions may meet with considerable local resistance, further keeping your island secrets secure.

Traditionally, an island stronghold has also been useful for resupply and smuggling. If you manage a fleet of ships or planes that perhaps don't have enough operational range to get from the mainland to their appointed destination, having an island depot capable of resupplying, even repairing, those vessels can be very handy. This was more of a problem in the days of sail and coal than it is in the modern era, but it's still something to bear in mind.

Smuggling has always been a popular island pastime. In Bermuda, for example, we smuggled cotton and guns during the American Civil War, and booze during Prohibition. As we're protected by the British flag, the American government didn't want to come in mob-handed, as it might otherwise have done.

Smuggling doesn't have to stop at trade goods. People smuggling has been a popular occupation for time out of mind. In the Mediterranean, refugees flow through Libya to Italy, often via the island of Lampedusa. Since then, people smugglers have adopted the reprehensible tactic of taking their customers up to the coast of Italy by boat, then abandoning the boat, knowing that the coast guard will have no choice but to save the refugees on board. Australia has maintained several island detention centers, to dissuade ocean-going migrants.

From a Keeper's perspective, a private island is an excellent setting for a stand-alone game, say Fear Itself. The characters arrive as guests, perhaps of an unknown patron - shades of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Please Avoid Ethnic Stereotypes - and fall victim to, say, zombies. Or Nazi zombies, why not. Or prehistoric creatures, revived for your pleasure. Or anything else, but the point behind an island locale is that it automatically creates the things you need for horror: isolation, unfamiliarity, lack of resources. Isolation is fairly obvious, as is lack of resources. Unfamiliarity is a little different, but in this instance it refers to the landscape and the circumstances. Unless the players are very familiar with boats and the nomadic lifestyle, they've probably never been in an environment like this. It's all very well in the brochures, and places where there's a well-trained staff to cater for your least whim. It's a bit different when there's no other humans for God alone knows how many miles in any direction. when the generator dies and you don't know how to fix it, when the winds kick up and the roof sounds as if it's about to take flight.

That's it for now! Happy island hopping.

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